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Smoky Mountain Spring

With stunning views throughout the more than 500,000 acres of land, there’s plenty of luscious landscape to explore, admire, and hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but how does one hike safe?

As the highest visited national park in the United States, the Smoky Mountains hosts 11 million annual visitors every single year.

Smoky Mountain hiking trails are some of the most picturesque.  The mountains seem to stretch on forever, and they offer some of the most incredible adventures nature holds.  If you’re looking to up your hiking game, read our tips to hike safe and enjoy it!

Hike Safe in the Smokies

Know Your Fitness Level

Before you even hit the trail, take your fitness level into consideration.  A single mile on the trail is like walking three paved miles. If you don’t typically walk many miles in a day, heading out for a grand adventure that can last a full day may not be the best idea.  For those who don’t have much hiking experience, there are lots of easier options for you to enjoy the hike but hike safe. Be sure to read about our favorite less strenuous mountain hikes.

Check the Weather

Hike Safe Sunrise

The mountains have weather patterns notoriously hard to predict.  Because elevation can vary so greatly in the Smoky Mountains, you’re going to want to check an accurate weather forecast.  Our local weather teams will be your most accurate option.

Keep in mind that every 1000 feet in elevation you climb away from Gatlinburg, the temperature will begin to drop.  If you are planning to head to Newfound Gap or Clingman’s Dome to do some hiking, be sure to subtract 10-15 degrees from the Gatlinburg Forecast.  

The Smoky Mountains typically see rain quite frequently.  In fact, they are a temperate rainforest! We see more than 80 inches of rain per year in the high elevations!  Always be prepared for rain and review lightning safety before you choose a trail.  

Dress Correctly

Hike safe Signpost

Always be prepared for the weather changes when you hit the Smoky Mountain hiking trails.

Bringing layers is always a great idea.  Wearing synthetic athletic clothing in layers is a great way to keep your body comfortable in any conditions.  When you begin your hike, it’s best to start off a little cold. This way, you avoid having to stop multiple times to remove your layers.  

A long-sleeved synthetic shirt or lightweight synthetic jacket is recommended in high elevations at all times of the year.  A bandana or Buff is also great as it serves many purposes on a hike. Wear it around your head to keep you warm, around your neck to wipe any sweat as you get warm or pour water on it and apply it to your neck to keep you cool.

Packing a rain jacket or disposable poncho found in any convenience store is always a must in the Smoky Mountains.  

Footwear is going to be the most important apparel choice.  If you don’t own any hiking specific shoes or boots that you have already broken in, a gym shoe is your best bet.  It is highly recommended you break in a shoe or boot you plan to hike in. This will help avoid hot spots and eventual blisters.  


Smoky Mountain Flowers

While you never want to overpack, you want to make sure to bring along the 

10 essentials to hike safe

We always recommend people bring along an 11th essential – a plastic grocery bag.  This way, you can pack out any trash you see along the trail side and leave nature better than you found it.  It never hurts to pay it forward!

Let Someone Know Your Plans

Smoky Mountain hiking trails are incredibly popular.  It’s very rare you’ll ever be alone on a hiking trail most of the time.  However, you always want to hike safe so someone who isn’t with you needs to know your plans. Never ever go hiking without letting someone know your plans – when you will leave your rental cabin for the trail, which trail you’ll be hiking, and when you expect to be back.  Since there isn’t cell phone service on many trails, let your loved one know you might not check in until after you get back to your cabin.

By keeping someone at home up to date with your plans you’ll give them peace of mind and a starting point in case something goes wrong.  

Pace Yourself

Remember – a hike is a marathon and not a sprint.  If you start hiking too quickly, you’ll lose energy.  By starting slowly and taking stretch breaks in the first 15 minutes, you’ll set yourself up for a successful walk in the woods.  Here’s a great gentle stretching routine you can incorporate during those first few moments on the trail.

By taking a break every hour and remembering to sip water each time you catch your breath, you will be able to complete your hike comfortably.  

Ready to hike safe? Let’s go!

With these great tips you’ll have an amazing experience on any of the 150 miles of trails in the Smokies!  These gorgeous mountains are among the oldest in the world and will help you and your family create memories to last a lifetime.

Whether it’s your first hike or 1000th hike, the Smokies will always take your breath away.

The park itself is centered around the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, which is a component of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This area is also part of the greater Appalachian Mountain Range.

Here are some of our favorite hikes to get you started:

Easy Hikes

Check out the Sugarlands, located on the Tennessee side of the park, so named because of their history as a maple grove. Hike the one-mile loop from Sugarlands Visitor Center to the John Ownby cabin and check out the remnants of the area’s original Scotch-Irish, English and German settlers. Difficulty: Easy

The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is a perfect hike for a group with small children. The trail is paved and level, and is only 3,000 feet long. Be sure to check out the bear footprints in the concrete toward the back of the loop! Difficulty: Easy

Just outside of Gatlinburg is Greenbrier, Tennessee, the starting point for the Porter’s Creek Trail. This trail offers streams, forests, ruins from early settlers, a waterfall, and seasonally, some beautiful wildflowers. All this in just four miles roundtrip. Difficulty: Easy

Moderate Hikes

The Walker Sister’s Cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the best hikes on the Tennessee side of the park and part of the Cherokee Orchard/Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. You’ll pass Rainbow Falls, a portion of LeConte Creek that pours for 80 feet over a rock cliff. It earns its name from the rainbow that the afternoon sun reveals when it hits the water at the right angle. The hike is 2.6 miles each direction, but there is a great break around the 2.5 mile mark, where you can see the entire valley. Difficulty: Moderate

Old Cabin In The Smokies

If you feel up to it, don’t miss hikes that pass Grotto Falls. On your way, you’ll pass through the Trillium Gap, an amazing scene in springtime when all of the region’s wildflowers are in full bloom. All trails cross the Roaring Fork River in their gentle ascent. At the 1.1 mile mark, a creek deepens into a pool and you will enter a narrow defile while the Roaring Fork River hurtles downward in the Grotto Falls. You will pass behind the waterfall, so be careful as you walk on the wet rocks. The hike is about 1.2 miles each way. Difficulty: Moderate

The Andrews Bald Trail

The Andrews Bald Trail will take you to a beautiful Smoky Mountains landmark: Walk through ancient boreal rainforest at the high elevation.  This view is unmatched, though the 3.6 mile hike can be busy on pretty days. Difficulty: Moderate

Want to learn a little bit of history as you prepare to hike safe? Visit the Walker Sister’s homesite.  Be sure to check out the Little Greenbrier School House, where you parked, before heading out on your way.  This gentle walk takes place on an old roadbed and will give your family a taste of life from years gone by.  The Walker Sisters were granted a lifetime lease by the National Park Service in 1934.  The five unmarried sisters lived in this very simple home until the time of their deaths.  The last Walker Sister passed away in 1964.  3 miles round trip.  Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Strenuous Hikes

On a clear day, pick the hike from the Low Gap Trailhead. On your way to the top of Mt. Cammerer, you will hike up to 4,928 feet. Although this is the shortest route, it is still 12 miles round trip and relatively steep. Difficulty: Strenuous

Waterfall Bridge

The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the Smoky Mountain’s most popular hikes for a reason.  Get up early to beat the crowds to see the incredible views unfettered.  This trail is the site of arson in 2016 and is the starting point of the devastating wildfire which tore through the park and the town of Gatlinburg.  Though the hike is just two miles to the top, it is a steep two miles.  Due to fire damage, always follow signs and never stray off trail or climb the delicate chimneys.  Difficulty: Strenuous


If a big waterfall is your favorite destination, try the Ramsey Cascades Trail.  At eight miles round trip, the incline of the trail steady increases as you approach the magnificent Ramsey Cascades – the largest waterfall you can reach on a maintained trail in the park. Be sure to bring some water for this half to full day hike.  Difficulty: Strenuous

Book a cabin for your hike!

Find a quiet, secluded cabin – whether you want something without mountain roads, or something fully ensconced in the beauty of the mountains, a cozy bungalow or treehouse or a cabin with all the entertainment – movie theater, pool, big kitchen, games and lots of space, American Patriot Getaways has a cabin for you.

Book a cabin with a hot tub and sooth your muscles after hiking in the mountains.

Be sure you check out all our amazing, featured deals so you can get the best price for your firefly vacation.

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